Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer has been traditionally used as a medicinal plant and has beneficial effects due to pharmacological properties. Although ginseng is thought to be protective under abnormal conditions, the effects of pretreatment with red ginseng (RG) extract on ischemic stroke have not been fully elucidated. We investigated the protective effects of RG extract after focal cerebral ischemia in mice. Crude RG extract (360 mg/kg) was administered intraperitoneally for 2 weeks. Mice were then subjected to occlusion of the middle cerebral artery for 1 hour, followed by reperfusion for 4 and 24 hours. Pretreatment with RG extract followed by ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) resulted in significant reduction of oxidized hydroethidine signals in ischemic areas. At 4 and 24 hours after I/R, the number of 8-hydroxyguanosine and apoptosis signal-regulating kinase 1 (ASK1)-positive cells decreased in the ischemic penumbra as seen using immunofluorescent staining. Western blotting showed that RG efficiently attenuated the protein levels of activated ASK1 in the ischemic penumbra. Consequently, DNA fragmentation and the infarct volume were reduced by RG extract pretreatment 24 hours after I/R. Also, RG extract resulted in better performance in rotarod test after I/R. Thus, RG pretreatment demonstrates a protective effect at suppressing ischemia-induced oxidative stress and apoptosis in ischemic lesions. Pretreatment with crude RG extract may be an effective strategy for preventing brain injury after an ischemic stroke.
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